The Benefits of Serving Others

Have you ever wanted your life to have more purpose and meaning? Do you struggle with depression, like I do?  Have you ever wondered how you can make a positive difference in a world which often emphasizes self and demanding greed?  I have learned that one of the best ways to fill your life with more purpose and meaning, alleviate depression, and make a positive difference in the world to someone other than yourself, you have to learn to be able to serve others. In fact, a study from University of Wisconsin Madison(La Follette School of Public Affairs) determined that being generous and serving others leads us to view people more compassionately and creates a sense of community with others. (source: http://shp.rutgers.edu/current_students/documents/October2013.pdf) Here are some other benefits of serving others:

  1. It eliminates self-pity and feelings of worthlessness.—When one feels that they can’t do anything good for this world, a sense of self-pity and even hopelessness for oneself and the world ensues. It is easier to want to give up and give in to depression and boredom. However, when we strive to serve others, we don’t have time to think of self-pity and our so-called worthlessness because a.) We know that we are making a difference in at least one (if not, more) person besides us because we are helping them. b) I believe God gives us an intrinsic conscience in our souls to let us know that when we unselfishly serve others, we are doing something good.  When we help people in need, we also eliminate self-pity because seeing others in need helps cultivate gratitude for what we do have in our lives.
  2. Serving others brings meaning and purpose to our lives.—When we are wandering aimlessly in life or when we are doing something robotically (i.e.. going through the motions), often we find we are living life without much meaning. However, serving others has a great purpose—to better the world around us.  When we not just volunteer at one or two places, but when our whole mindset is about serving others, we will live life more intentionally and not worry about self-serving minutia anymore.  We live rich life, spiritually and emotionally, and life becomes more joyful and meaningful for our commitment to serving others.
  3. Having a servant-mindset (which I define it as: an unselfish motivation to serve others and do what is best for them) rather than a self-serving mindset helps us make a greater impact on the world around us.—When we strive to cultivate a servant’s mindset, we make a greater positive difference in the world around us because this mindset is so counter-cultural and so rare that it will speak volumes to those around us. The norm, sadly, is to be only focused on ourselves and our own needs and desires. Selfishness is only focused on the self and what makes me happy, without caring for another person.  Having a servant-mindset, on the other hand, is focused on others’ needs and wants, and the self takes a back seat to those around the self.
  4. Serving others helps us live longer and happier lives.—There have been numerous studies that have concluded that serving others helps us to live longer and healthier. This is because there is not only more meaning and activity in one’s life, but the satisfaction that one gets from serving others is greater than even the satisfaction of receiving love and care from another person.  Serving others also alleviates depression probably because one is forced to look outside oneself and one’s circumstance and actively instead engage in the life of another. This often not only reduces the stressfulness of one’s own situation because they are not focused on that, but one is able to help another through one of their life’s situations.

These are the benefits that many people (including me) have found when we serve others.  We can serve others in many ways. Even praying for someone else can be considered service to others. Many people volunteer to help others in need. Still others help to make a positive impact in their communities or even the bigger world around them.  What can you do to serve others? What benefits have you found in helping others? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

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My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

The Importance of Life Stories

I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old.  I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most.  Finally, I am a blogger and writer.  In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others.  Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions.  Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:

  1. It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me.  However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories.  I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.”  (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
  2. Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong.  I realized that he didn’t always have it all together.  I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy.  If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
  3. Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them.  For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”

This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires.  It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.

 

 

My Goals in 2018

I used to not participate in New Year’s Resolutions or Goal-Making. I felt it was setting myself up for failure, especially if I did not achieve what I wanted in life.  So, I used to avoid doing resolutions, almost like the plague.  However, in 2017, God has given me a greater motivation to make and achieve goals. The goals that I will make for the year 2018, I believe, not only feed my drive for success but cater to my two overarching purposes in life:

  • To glorify God in everything.
  • To show people the love that God has already constantly shown me.

Here are some of my 2018 goals and how I strive to achieve them:

Spiritual/Personal Goals

  1. Cope with my anger issues more effectively
    • Count to ten before expressing my anger.
    • Take deep breaths when anxious or uncomfortable.
    • Think about the positives of the current situation (even if it is a mostly negative situation)
    • Try to refocus on my overarching purposes in life (Glorify God and show people God’s love)
    • Try to think about the negative consequences of inappropriately expressing my anger, and so avoid becoming angry in the first place.
  2. Get out of my comfort zone to glorify God at least once a week.
    • Do something kind for another person even if it inconveniences me a little bit.
    • Don’t complain or get upset when asked to do something uncomfortable, but see it as an opportunity to glorify God and die to self.
  3. Read through the Old Testament in a year and also part of the New Testament (since I will have already read through it this year. At this time of writing, I am only 5 or 6 chapters away from finishing Revelation)
    • Read at least 2 Old Testament chapters a day, and 1 New Testament chapter on Weekends.
    • If I miss a day, do the readings on the day that I missed.
  4. Don’t worry as much about things.
    • Think of ways to solve the problem/issue at hand other than worrying
    • Memorize Romans 8:28.
    • Focus on how God will bring good out of the situation and focus on His goodness and that He’s not trying to hurt me.
    • Memorize Jeremiah 29:11.
  5. Think more positively about others.
    • Say to myself, “This person is not out to maliciously hurt me. They just want to get through the day.”
    • Remind myself that everyone has a story and is probably going through something or has gone through something that is painful or challenging. (Re: “Be kind quote”)
    • Recall positive qualities about said person or persons.
    • Thank everyone that does something truly kind for someone (including me).

Work (Day Job) goals

  1. Get a reward (a pin) by providing excellent customer service.
    • Ask myself, “How can I go above and beyond for this person?”
    • Walk the customer whenever possible to the item they are looking for.
    • Apologize if you cannot find the item the customer is looking for, and ask someone else who knows the item better than me.
    • Look for every possible way (if possible) to help customers find the item or items they are looking for.
  2. Pass the test to become a department manager
    • Learn at least 3 department manager related things
    • Be more intentional about being a “to-be leader” in my department
    • Take the test by August 2018.
  3. Get returns done in an average of less than 45 minutes
    • Walk the department before work or the first few minutes of work to see if there are any changes to the mods to know the department even better.
    • Be willing to work different areas of the store, so to know other departments too.
  4. Learn at least 3 department manager related things
    • Set up times with manager I (or whoever the manager is) to learn DM stuff.
    • Take the iniative to ask the current department manager or managers about how to do certain things.
    • Practice more DM things, over and over, until I am good at said thing.
  5. Be a trained cashier.
    • In January or February of 2018, ask to train for cashiering.
    • Train at least 2x a week.
    • Memorize and learn what is needed to be known for cashiering.

Blogging Goals

  1. Get started with affiliate marketing.
    • Find a Hosting Website
    • Join at least 3 affiliate marketing programs/companies.
    • Review products for them at least 2 to 3 times a week.
  2. Earn money from affiliate marketing (see goal #1 under blogging)
  3. Write a total of at least 200 posts (combined from this year and 2015 year)
    • Consistently write at least 2 X a week.
    • Write a variety of posts but sticking to the motivational/spiritual/social justice themes.
    • Write more poetry or how-to posts.
  4. Get up to a total of at least 500 posts total.
    • (See goal #4 under blogging)
  5. Write a blog post at least 2x a week
    • Set up a time before or after work to write OR write at least a blog post each of the two days that I am off work.
    • Have at least 10 different topics to write about each month (probably more) so I will have content to write about.
    • Write a little more poetry reflecting on spiritual/ motivational/social justice themes, of course.
  6. Get more followers on Pinterest and Twitter
    • Join more blogging groups
    • Engage more with others on these websites
    • Promote other people’s content

These are some of my goals for the year 2018. I know it is quite a hefty list, and I may not achieve all of them. However, this list will motivate me to live better and become a more engaged and motivated individual in life. What are your goals in 2018? Do you also avoid making goals like I did in the past, or do you make resolutions every year? Please feel free to comment.

Top 10 Most Influential Life Teachers

According to Merriam-Webster, a life teacher, or what is more commonly known as a mentor, is “a trusted counselor or guide.” I have had the fortunate experience of having had many mentors throughout my life. I would love to be a mentor myself to others too.  Though I believe we can learn something from everyone, here are some life teachers that have profoundly shaped my life, besides God (Who has provided these teachers and therefore is the Ultimate Teacher, or Mentor) and some of what they taught me:

  1. My mom and dad—They have taught me so much about life, not only because they are my parents but also for the example that they give me. They have both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They both emphasize and follow this ethic themselves. My mom has worked tirelessly serve her family, and my dad has worked many hours at his job to provide for his family. It was my dad who actually told me that it is better to try your very best and fail than to do moderately good, but the work you did was not your very best.  I try to apply that to my own life, especially at my job. Even when some of the people around me may not be up to doing their best work at my job all the time, I still strive to do my best because of my parents’ example and because I want to serve my God in the best way possible.
  2. J—Ever since I met her, she has been a great mentor to me. She taught me to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and believe in myself and the abilities that God has given to me. She also taught me how to overcome my fears and anxieties, and not be too comfortable with the norm, because “the norm” will never get one anywhere in life. When I wanted to give up on myself, J urged me on. For instance, when I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a good job, she helped and encouraged me to get the resources available to me in order to be able to find a job that suited my abilities and interests, which I never thought I’d be able to access.   Best of all, even when no one else had believed in me, she did!
  3. My friend Barbara*–I met Barbara at my previous church eleven years ago. Although we don’t get to see each other much anymore, she still has had a profound impact in my life. She helped me see things realistically, instead of just through my own emotional lenses, which often turns out to be wrong or distorted in ways. She taught me how to be a better Christian and how to trust God more. The lessons that she has taught me has helped me to resolve conflicts quicker and to get out of my own stubborn shell to be able to see things as they really are, instead of just through my distorted lens.
  4. My former pastor Frank Taylor—Pastor Frank became the pastor at my previous church seven years ago. Though he has since been called to a different church, the impact that he had on me while still at my previous church was profound. He was the pastor that first taught me the value of humility.  One example of him teaching this value to the congregation at the time was when people were complaining about him saying something that they felt was offensive. Many pastors I know would just profusely defend themselves and never apologize. Yes, Pastor Frank did also explain himself, but he almost immediately wrote a formal letter of apology to the congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Not a lot of people in his position of power I know would go to such lengths to apologize.  He also openly preaches about the struggles he has had in life, and how he learned from them, instead of trying to hide them from others.
  5. My current pastor David Shoaf—Pastor Shoaf, as he is often called, has also had a profound impact on my current life. He has also taught me important lessons on humility. Not only is he careful not to talk too much about himself, he also preaches in such a way that we can adequately reflect on what he is saying. He has said that he wants his messages to be such that people are forced to look in the mirror of their lives to make sure their lives are matching up with what they say they believe.  Not only are his messages always relevant to my life, but the way he lives also accentuates his messages!  He has faithfully served my current church for over 40 years!  In the way he lives, he has taught me gratitude (He profusely thanked us when we had a party in honor of him and his birthday this past summer.),  faithfulness (He has faithfully served this church for many years and has been married for about the same time as well.) ,  humility (He doesn’t like to draw too much attention to himself), and kindness (He always tries to get to know how people in the church are doing and tries to talk to each new guest that attends our church for the first time.).
  6. my manager Chris*–Although I have only known him for about a year and a half, he has taught me a lot about myself and life. In a previous post, I discuss some of the things he has taught me. See this link for more information. One of the other things that I didn’t emphasize in the previous post is that he has taught me patience and the value of service. He taught me through the good he has done for others that doing good is always worth it even if you don’t get rewarded right away. He has taught me to be less self-centered and more others-centered.  He has also taught me how to be patient.  Though I still struggle with patience, I have learned that I can wait for certain things and not be anxious about it. For instance, I needed to talk to one of my managers about something, but was told that I had to wait. Ordinarily, if it was even remotely important, I might be anywhere from slightly annoyed to throwing an anxious fit about it due to my anxiety issues! However, this time I was able to let it go and decided to talk to her about that thing the next time I see her.
  7. my friend Holly*–My friend Holly, though I haven’t met her in person, has taught me so much. One of the most important things she has taught me is the importance of validation. Validation is so lacking in this world, but she gives it like the food we need to eat. Her encouragement has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life and has helped lifted me in times where I was depressed and despondent in life.  Through her, I have learned to judge less, and encourage and love more. I also learned from her that everyone has a story, and to have more compassion and love for those who may not have the same privileges that I do. She has further taught me not to take anything for granted.
  8. my current manager I—My current manager I has taught me, like my parents have, the value of hard work and dedication. She has also taught me the value of believing in others because she has believed in me. When other managers were simply too busy to teach me department manager stuff (no fault with them though), she took the time out of her busy schedule to teach me some things.  In that not only did I help her get some managerial things done, but she has helped me to know some of the things department managers have to do.
  9. My manager Tom*–My manager Tom has been a godsend to my company. For more information on him, see this. He has taught me the value of humor and of integrity. He doesn’t pretend to be someone who he’s not. For instance, when someone asks how he is doing, he won’t just mumble fine when he is feeling terrible, he will actually tell you that he feels terrible. This is not so you will feel sorry for him, but to show his genuine character. He also makes others laugh. For instance, he knew one time that I straighten the aisles very well, but joked to one of my other supervisors that I only do things “half-way.” I was there too, and when I heard him say it and pointed to him, he knew that I “got” his joke and he and I started laughing.
  10. My friend Laura*–My friend Laura has helped me through many things. She has taught me how to be generous and thoughtful to others. Every time it is my birthday and for Christmas, she sends me a card even when I forget to send one to her. She was also my teacher in school, and Laura has sacrificed eating her lunch at times to help students. She has a true servant’s heart, and through her example, has taught me to be more like her.

These are the life teachers that have shaped my life the most today. I have learned so much from all of these people, and I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from them. Who has taught you the most in your life? What have they taught you, and why is it so important to you? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

 

 

 

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor

*=pseudonyms, not their real names to protect privacy

Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know things have been difficult for you lately, and you feel that there is little meaning and purpose to your life.  You feel that no one would want to get to know the Real You if they found out all about you.  You feel that in order to be truly loved and accepted, you would have to be reasonably thin and look like a model in the magazines and in the movies. In other words, you have to not only be perfectly sociable, you have to look the part too, if there ever was such a thing.  Consequently, because you don’t measure up to these standards, you think that is why you don’t have any friends—or any confidence in who you are and what you are becoming.

You have a lot of other stressors too.  You just moved to a new house, and will move to a new school soon. The old house hasn’t sold yet, so your parents are busy with that and have less time for you.  You also feel the need to keep your grades up because you don’t want your parents to get upset at you and you want to be able to compete with the intelligence of your very smart younger brother.

You want to give up, or at least wish all these problems away. You want to run away from them because life is becoming increasingly unbearable for you.  Even in the midst of all the stress and anguish that you are facing, let me tell you, there is still hope for you.  Don’t you give up on life! I know it is very tough right now, but things WILL get better. I promise.

In fact, three years later, you will meet the Greatest Friend there is—Jesus Christ!  He won’t give a care how you look like or how sociable you are.  He will accept you. Just. as. you. are. He will change your life for the better. No longer will you have to worry about being loved and accepted by your peers and other people in your life, but you will be more and more secure in who you are because Jesus loves you!

You won’t have to worry about competing with your brother for grades. Heck, grades won’t even matter nine or ten years from now! You will even have a full-time job, though it will be different from what you imagine it to be, and even though it will be tough to get at first. God will make you and your brother successful in your own ways, so you won’t worry about competing with him anymore.

Moreover, you won’t have to rely on your parents alone or even your brother for affection and attention, because God will provide you with many friends. Though God will always be your Ultimate Friend, these other friends will help you see the goodness and love of God ever more clearly. Best of all, you will be able to open up about yourself more without fear of rejection or criticism because it won’t bother you anymore. God will always be with you, and He is the One that will ultimately matter the most to you.

Finally, don’t give up because God will do something great and wonderful in your life if you let Him. Your love for everyone and everything (except, of course, the devil and the evil in this world) will overflow to others. You will experience joy in your life like never before!

Keep going! God will help you through this!

Love,

Patricia (in her 30s)

Gifts I Want the World To Receive

Amidst all the negativity and strife in this world today, I would like to focus on something a little more positive—gifts for the soul. Even though we live in a time where more countries and more people are enjoying economic prosperity and technological advances, there has also been more people that are either dissatisfied with their lives or with the state of this world today. Many people are either stressed out or depressed, or both. However, if more people in this world would receive these gifts into their lives, I believe this world would be a better place. Here are some of the “soul” gifts that I want more of the world to receive by Christmas and why:

  1. Peace and reconciliation—Almost everywhere I go, there seems to be a sense of unsettledness and/or stress in people’s lives. Sometimes, at work, I hear people arguing and yelling at each other. There have been hurtful words exchanged between political and governmental leaders. Cyberbullying seems to be rampant these days on the Internet. However, what if we, as a nation, as individuals, received peace and reconciliation in our lives? There have been people in my life that have hurt me emotionally, sometimes very much. I was able to reconcile with many of them, and I can tell you the feeling of unity and joy that returned to my soul as a result of me putting aside that bitterness, anger, and hurt for love and peace made not only me feel better, but our whole relationship much better as well. I would love it if some of the people at work who felt hurt by either other co-workers or other managers tried to work it out with the people that they felt offended by and/or forgive them, not because the offending party “deserves” it, but to free the offended from the chains of hatred and bitterness that would consume their souls. I would also love it if some of our government leaders humbled themselves and asked for forgiveness and worked hard not to hurt the people that they have ever again.  Is there someone in your life that you feel hatred and/or bitterness against? Yes, you can hold on to the hatred, but it will destroy your soul and eat you up from the inside.  It is better to be able to let that hurt and anger go and move on with your life so that you will feel free to love everyone else in your life without a barrier of hurt from your offender blocking intimacy with people who haven’t even offended you.
  2. Joy—Especially during the holidays, while there are many people who feel joyous, there are some people who struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness, and worthlessness, and there may be a good reason for that disposition too. Maybe they have lost a loved one, or maybe they hold memories of abuse from other unhappy people during this time of year, or maybe they won’t get to see loved ones this year. Whatever the case may be, having joy this Christmas season is a struggle for many people.  However, there can be some joy to be had, no matter what situation one finds themselves in this holiday season.  If you believe in God, focus on His great love for you and the gifts He has given to you this year, and really, all throughout your lifetime!  Focus on the people and things you have that you love and cherish, rather than the people and things you don’t.
  3. Purpose and Passion—I see the majority of people I know go to work to survive. However, a lot of them are working without really wanting to be there (i.e. They do it because they have ) or without aim or purpose. Some people go through life the exact same way—for survival, just because it’s not right to “give up.” True as that may be, when we go through the motions in life without knowing what or why we are doing what we’re doing, we will be more prone to give up when times get tough and we miss the excitement and joy life can offer. Going through life with a particular aim or goals in mind, having a particular focus, and doing it with all your mind, heart, and soul can generate joy like you wouldn’t believe!  When I work with a particular aim in mind, I get excited about reaching each step towards that big goal, and I work as hard and best as I can to accomplish that goal. For instance, my overarching goal in life is to share the love of God with others.  If I work with that goal in the front of my mind, I will more likely be proactive about loving others at my job, my family, and others I see on a regular basis better. However, when I lose sight of that goal, or when I forget this goal, I go into “survival-do-this-to get-it-over-with” mode.
  4. Compassion—We, as a society, I think, have become increasingly calloused to the needs of others and are taught to look out for number one instead. This has created a consumerist, entitled me-first culture.  The effects of it include sexual violence and entitlement attitudes, arrogance, violence on the streets, and even terrorist attacks. I am not saying that you, the reader, have a lack of compassion, but just society in general does. If the world received the gift of having compassion for others, people would aim to be kinder and more understanding of each other. We would have less wars and violence in the streets and everywhere.  We would think of others before ourselves. Everyone would be provided for because more people would see a need, and try to fulfill it, rather than watching someone else suffer in blind callousness and disdain for them.

These are the four gifts that I believe the world should receive.  If the world had more peace and reconciliation, relationships would be restored. If the world had more joy, the holidays would be great and enjoyable for everyone, not just the privileged and the blessed.  If the people in this world had more purpose and passion in their lives, then they would not have to go through life in survival mode, but have renewed joy in their lives. If the world had more compassion, more people in need would be cared for, instead of ignored and left to suffer alone. What are four gifts you think the world could benefit from receiving? Please feel free to comment.

How To Think Deeply

Besides sin, there is a malady that affects most of us at one time or another, and that is something my pastor calls “lazy thinking.” Lazy thinking, in my definition, is superficial and not concerned with the “why” and the purpose of life, but just the “now”.  It is primarily concerned with self.  Deep thinking, on the other hand, is concerned with the “whys” of life and the “points” or purposes of life. It can be concerned with self, but usually extends to how we affect others around us and leaving a good legacy for future generations to follow. Many people never get to experience the joys and the fulfillment of thinking more deeply or philosophically about life. One can think deeply, no matter what one’s beliefs are.  Here is what I have learned about how to think more deeply and how to apply this type of thinking to all facets of your life. :

  1. Think about the legacy you’re leaving or how you want to be remembered: Although I was often depressed during the toughest years of my life (for more information, see this post), I was able to think a bit more about the legacy I was leaving and what I should change in order to have a good one. I think this is a good practice, even if you are not depressed.  You don’t have to think about your death or how you want to leave this world every single day, but periodically to make sure you’re on track to leave a good mark in this world.  If you don’t leave a good legacy, few, if any, will miss or remember you after you are dead, and that is never a good thing.  However, if you strive now to live purposely to have a good legacy, you will more likely to be remembered well after you die. For instance, Jesus left a lasting legacy because He constantly thought of how He was impacting others for God, and tailored His attitudes, words, and actions to that goal. Ghandi and Mother Teresa similarly did the same. We should follow their lead, and periodically evaluate ourselves to see if we are living the life we would like to live and positively impact others.
  2. Think about how you are affecting others, not just yourself: The problem with a lot of people, including myself sometimes, is that we do things without thinking about the impact we’re making on others and how we are affecting other people’s attitudes and actions. For instance, when we are upset with someone, words often spew out of our mouth (reflecting the state and content of our hearts, sadly enough) without pause or thought. For instance, in a previous post, I talked about how people said things out of anger to me without thinking, and how I have sometimes said some hurtful words back to them.  At the time, we are not probably thinking, “Oh, if I say ‘A’ I will hurt that person and our relationship will be strained for years. Furthermore, he or she won’t be able to forgive me and we will both have hate and bitterness in our hearts.” We may just want to get the anger off our chests and are only thinking about ourselves and our feelings, not the other person’s.  However, when we think more deeply, we are not only less likely to get upset and bitter at others, but we are also able to understand and love them better.  We will think about how what we want to do will affect the other person, and be more willing and open to learning and understanding about other people.
  3. Think about why you do what you do: For every action you do, there is most likely a reason why you do it. We may not always think about why we are doing what we’re doing, but there is always a reason. Thinking about why we do what we do has several benefits. One of them is that you will start to do things with purpose, and not just to do them. For instance, if I really thought about why I work, I would come up with these reasons. A.) I work to earn money, so I can live. B) I work to serve others so that I can impact the world positively and more importantly, glorify God.  C) I work to glorify God—I work because God says it’s good for me, and also to make Him happy.  Knowing and thinking about these “whys,” I then am able to tailor my attitude and actions towards this goal. When I am thinking about these goals or credos, I am more likely to work harder and to keep a positive attitude. If, however, I am stressed and/or not really thinking about my purpose in working, the quality of my work starts to suffer and my attitude often sours into an “I-don’t care” mentality or “Let’s just get this done and over with” frame of mind.  This thinking about the “whys” in your life can extend to all other areas of my life as well. For instance, if you are a breadwinner for your family, and are thinking about why you are providing for them you may come up with these reasons. A.) To glorify God—to make Him happy and give Him the worship He deserves.  B) To serve my family well.  C) To be a good example of service and care for my children.  Then, you can tailor your life to these goals by, for example, a.) Excelling at your job. b) Cook or help your spouse cook.  ) joyfully serve my family

These are just some of the benefits of thinking deeply. When we think about the legacy we’re leaving, think about how we are affecting others other than ourselves, and think about why we do what we do, our life will be much more fulfilling and purposeful.  We will also think about what we are doing when we are tempted to hurt someone with our words or actions. We will have a much better attitude towards others. Drink of the deep today, and think about what and why you do what you do.

The Grinch of Christmas: Harms of Commercialization

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I want to know, what does Christmas mean to you? What do you think it is supposed to mean? For many, it means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and all He represents.  For others, it may mean spending more time with family and other loved ones.  For still others, it means getting people the best gifts ever.

Though Christmas and the holiday season are supposed to be joyous times, many people become stressed and even disillusioned. One of the major reasons why people may be disillusioned is reflected in the results of a Pew Research poll*, where 33% of those surveyed dislike the commercialization of Christmas, and I agree with the 33%. Here is why I believe the commercialization of Christmas is harmful to the holiday and to us:

  1. It misses the point.—Christmas is primarily not about the gifts we receive from loved ones, but commercialization makes Christmas only about the material things we give and receive. Commercialization is very superficial in this aspect. Commercialization can make us so affixed to the gift aspects of Christmas, that we completely miss the real point of Christmas—celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and what He means to us.  The word Christmas even contains “Christ” in it!  We are supposed to remember the founder of Christmas—Jesus, not just see if we can get the best gifts or give the flashiest and most elegant gifts.
  2. It creates more stress than is necessary.—Besides missing the point of the true meaning of Christmas, it creates a lot more stress than is needed for this time of year. A lot of people, because we have created a society of entitlement and materialism, stress out about what gifts to give others.  They think if they don’t give just the right gift the receiver will not only be disappointed come Christmas, but also may think less of them (the giver).  Some people also stress out about how much they can afford (more on that later) and how much they should or shouldn’t give a particular person. Also, a lot of people buy and cook elaborate meals for this holiday. Now, I am in no way against people cooking good food and having elaborate meals to celebrate Christmas and other December holidays,  but sometimes they get so stressed during the preparation of the meal that they are unable to enjoy themselves or their loved ones, a lot like Martha in the Bible who was trying to prepare an elaborate meal for Jesus and the other guests there without taking the time to get to know him or anyone else there.
  3. People that are marginalized are left out of the celebration when the holidays become commercialized.—Because of all the emphasis this time of year on gift giving, people who are struggling financially or in other ways, are often left out of being able to participate in this aspect. Imagine seeing your friends being able to afford fancy jewelry for their loved ones, and you would like to give one of them to your mom who is sick or dying, but not having enough to buy it. However, if the true meaning and the more spiritual aspects of Christmas were emphasized more, the joy and the hope that Christmas has to offer would be able to be realized by even society’s marginalized!  The privileged in this society would give to those who are more marginalized because they would know and understand that everyone deserves joy and peace this Christmas, not just themselves.  More people would be less materialistic and put more time in to help the hurting and needy, and spend more time with those who matter most to them.

 

These are just some of the harmful aspects of commercialization. Of course, I am not against shopping, as I do a share bit of that myself. However, rather than stress out about food preparations and gifts to give loved ones and friends this holiday season, let’s think about the true meaning of Christmas, and cherish those we love. Finally, let’s bring joy and hope to those who find this time of year difficult.

 

 

*Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/18/celebrating-christmas-and-the-holidays-then-and-now/